Monday, December 9, 2013

Retro Meaty Monday: Beef Brisket with Chili Sauce, Onion Soup & Beer

Another repost: we are actually going to have this for dinner tonight. But being a retail manager, I worked yesterday, drove home in snow, and am leaving too early this morning, after shoveling. Thank heavens I put this in the oven yesterday, cause I'll need a hearty dinner tonight. Careful, please, if it is icy where you are as it is here.

Since last September, I've been moving a 9 lb. brisket from one side of my big freezer to the other to make room for other stuff. It was such a good deal, on sale for the Jewish holiday, that I had to have one. My original plan was to cut it into two pieces, since unless I get what's called a "Packer Cut" brisket to smoke,  a big brisket is too much meat for a family of two. But it was already cryovac packaged and I just didn't want to break it open, so I froze it whole. It was time to cook it and freeze the leftovers.  

Last week I was shuffling through my Mom's recipe file that I inherited. I was looking for a blueberry muffin recipe that she made at least once a month, when I discovered three braised brisket recipes in there. Now here's the thing. My mother never once made a brisket. Sure, Mom boiled a corned beef brisket around St. Patrick's Day, but even then it was more likely to be ham and cabbage than corned beef. My Aunt May, who was actually my step-grandmother, was German Jewish and she managed to get me to eat things my Italian Catholic family never cooked. Like brisket. It was great. Everyone was always trying to fatten me up, indeed, I didn't tip the scales at over 100 lb. until I was past 35. She was a terrific  baker, and I would always stuff my mouth and my pockets with the cookies she made, but they were withheld until I ate some "real food" like ...brisket. It was wonderful

I've made a few braised briskets in my time, and smoked quite a few big boys. But  I have never tried the recipes that use onion soup mix, and liquids like barbecue sauce or ketchup in a braise. Always used lots of onions, wine, and other typical braised beef ingredients. So imagine my shock when I found a recipe using ketchup and onion soup mix in Aunt May's handwriting in Mom's recipe box, and scribbled along the edge in my father's unmistakable hand --"Judy's favorite".  

After Googling, I found that there are hundreds of brisket recipes on the web using some variation of Aunt May's onion soup recipe for brisket. Aunt May was on to something. Back in the mid-1960s,  adding processed convenience foods to recipes was considered innovative, and modern, as so many of these foods were new. Now that so many processed foods are on our "foodie shit list," a lot of people write them off, at best, as quaint, retro, mediocre recipes.  This is wrong.  Dumping a packet of onion soup mix over the roast was as au courant as making a recipe from Modernist Cuisine is today. It was called "Progress".

We come, no matter what anyone says about American cooking, from an enormous group of fine home cooks who cared about what was put on the table, and often had to do the best with what was on hand. If they hadn't, we likely wouldn't be here. Like it or not, many of these old recipes are a product of their time, and are part of our collective heritage.  They're still delicious, and deserve to grace your table from time to time. Aunt May's version has ketchup, onion soup and water in it; nothing more.  I have, of course, doodled this up a bit, and it's delish. I think my Aunt would call this Progress, too. 
Not picture perfect, but still perfect brisket.
Note: I happened to have an extremely large brisket. A more normal size brisket is about 7 pounds, and if you want to use a 4 pound piece, use half the amount of chili sauce, half the beer (drink the rest), 2 Tablespoons of molasses and half the garlic. Keep everything else the same. This needs to cook all day, and is much better chilled, sliced and then reheated on the next day in the abundant sauce, so plan accordingly. Freezes well.

Retro Braised Brisket

Serves 10


1 7 to 8 lb. beef brisket, flat cut, with a 1/4"  fat cap
2  12 oz. bottle chili sauce or ketchup
1 packet onion soup mix
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1/2 tsp. Marmite (opt.)
2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 bottle lager beer or dark beer or stout

12 garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 head)
3 - 4 bay leaves
Salt when reheating if needed

Just needs some foil to cover the pan, and then it's cook time!

1. Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Mix everything through the black pepper in a medium bowl with a  whisk. Then mix in the beer.

2. Place the meat fat side down in a roasting pan, that just fits it, scatter the garlic and bay leaves over the meat, and pour the beer  mixture over the top. Flip the meat so the fat is up.

3. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and place in the oven. Roast about 3 - 4 hours, then uncover and carefully turn the meat. recover and cook another 2 to 3 hours until the meat is fork tender.

4. Cool the meat in the sauce, then remove and wrap separately. Chill the meat and sauce. When ready to serve, remove the congealed fat from the sauce, slice the meat in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and reheat in the sauce, either in the oven or on top of the stove.

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